A controversial $400 million border wall contract that prompted bitter charges by a top House Democrat of political interference by President Donald Trump and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) wasn’t awarded improperly, according to an investigation by the Department of Defense (DoD) inspector general (IG).
The IG said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) “contracting officials solicited and awarded the Yuma 3 Project contract to design and build border infrastructure in accordance with federal procurement laws and regulations.”
“We reviewed [contract-winning] Fisher Sand and Gravel’s proposal, compared it to the solicitation, and agreed with USACE’s assessment that it was the LPTA [Lowest Price Technically Available] and properly awarded the contract.
“Additionally, USACE officials testified that there was no undue influence, and none of the information and documents reviewed by the DoD OIG provided evidence that there was undue influence from the White House or Members of Congress.”
The investigation was prompted by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol, who in December 2019 claimed Trump and Cramer pushed DoD to award the contract to Fisher Sand & Gravel, a North Dakota firm headed by Tommy Fisher, a well-known Republican donor.
Thompson charged in a Dec. 4, 2019, letter to the IG that Trump, White House adviser Jared Kushner, and Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf “inappropriately influenced” the awarding of the contract.
Thompson told CBS News “60 Minutes” program that “the president made no bones about his support for Fisher. And, guess what? Fisher got the contract. It speaks for itself.”
“Sources also told us that Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota had been aggressively trying to steer contracts to Fisher Sand and Gravel,” the CBS show said.
A spokesman for Thompson, who was then and remains chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security in addition to his duties on the Jan. 6 panel, didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment on the IG’s conclusions.
Thompson’s claims were part of a four-year barrage of corruption charges, a special counsel investigation, and two impeachment proceedings staged by congressional Democrats concerning Trump’s election in 2016 and his conduct in the Oval Office during his tenure there. To date, none of the major accusations have been verified, the special counsel recommended no charges, and Trump was acquitted by the Senate in both impeachments.
Fisher Sand & Gravel was already in the national spotlight even before Thompson demanded the IG investigation, because of the firm’s involvement with “We Build the Wall,” a private group that claimed it could build Trump’s promised wall on the U.S. border with Mexico for much less, and far quicker, than the federal government.
Fisher contributed to Trump’s presidential campaigns and to Cramer’s congressional campaigns. Fisher also was Cramer’s “guest at Trump’s State of the Union speech a few months ago. Cramer and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner are reportedly among the company’s allies,” MSNBC reported in 2019.
“I have always been guided by the principle of following the rule of law. This situation is no different as proven and dismissed by the inspector general numerous times throughout the report,” Cramer told The Epoch Times.
“This complete and total exoneration is a long time coming from this worthless, partisan fishing expedition. House Democrats wasted taxpayer time and money while the Biden administration is actively ignoring a crisis of their own doing at the southern border.”
Cramer is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, both of which have oversight authority over USACE.
The IG said DoD and White House counsel attorneys prevented six of the USACE employees involved in the contract awarding from answering some questions due to national security or commercial privilege considerations.
Even so, the IG said that while those questions weren’t answered by the six concerning “White House communications regarding the contract, we were able to review the e-mails of all 13 key USACE employees. We did not find any evidence in these e-mails of undue influence on the USACE employees that awarded the Yuma 3 Project contract in these key officials’ e-mails.”
We Build The Wall remains in litigation with the Department of Justice as a result of actions filed by federal attorneys at the Southern District of New York (SDNY). On its website, the group claims, “We were in the process of selecting the site for our third section of border wall when the SDNY unlawfully froze those assets and stopped our construction efforts. The SDNY has also charged the founder of We Build the Wall, Brian Kolfage, with fraud. Brian has pled not guilty and is contesting the charges.”
Kolfage is a triple-amputee U.S. military veteran.